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The Fresh Wave opens satellite office, adds some new people

VINELAND, NJ — Some deals start early, some start late, and every once in a while, they start on time. The 2011 New Jersey spring vegetable season falls into the last category, with nice volume and high quality added for good measure.

“I have to say, the weather’s been very cooperative actually,” Nick Giordano, vice president at The Fresh Wave LLC, told The Produce News the third week in May. “We’ve had some rain when we needed rain — no damaging rain whatsoever — no temperature issues at all, no freezing. So that’s been wonderful. We’ve had a couple of hot days, when we needed them, [which] pushed a few things along. Nighttime temperatures have been very good to us. I don’t really think we could do much better.”

And as for that normal timeframe to the start of the season? “When we make our charts and our pamphlets to be handed out at meetings in the winter, and we give those ‘normal’ dates,” stated Mr. Giordano, “we are having that season this year.”

More specifically, “We’re going with all the salad veg, the lettuces, all the herbs. The only thing we haven’t started with yet is all the dry stuff. So we’re pretty much underway full time except for the squash, cucumbers, peppers.” He continued, “All the lettuces are in full swing, all the herbs, the parsleys, the cooking greens. Everything’s in full swing in just a nice steady supply. Not too much, not too little. Like I said, it’s very, very good.”

Looking slightly ahead, the company executive said May 19, “By the end of this week, we’re going to have squash and some cucumbers; by the end of next week, we should have a good bit of squash and cucumbers. And then pepper will follow” a week or two after that.

Prices had been strong all spring, a situation Mr. Giordano addressed. “There’s a lot of reasons for that. The markets were high in the winter because of all the weather issues in Texas, Florida, Mexico. So coming into our deal, the markets were already high. Even Georgia and North Carolina got hit with some bad weather.” In addition, “When we started, all the other growing areas seemed to [be ending]. So it has benefitted us.”

As to quality, Mr. Giordano said, “The quality that [receivers are] getting is good. Asparagus is short; there’s been asparagus issues all over the country.” But in general, he said about the initial phase of the 2011 Jersey vegetable deal, “A lot of things have gone [growers’] way here. The weather’s cooperated, thank God, so we had the volume and the quality to supply. And other growing areas had quality issues all winter. So people were chomping at the bit to get into a new area.”

Now in its eighth year, The Fresh Wave — started by Skip Consalo and headquartered here at the Vineland Produce Auction in southern New Jersey — is a grower, shipper, importer and distributor of a full line of fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world.

The company opened its first satellite office March 1 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in the northern part of the state, and brought Hernan Brave on board to run that office.

Mr. Brave, 45, was born in Argentina and began his produce career in 1992 at Kleppe, a major apple and pear grower in that South American country. He most recently spent three years at Bacchus Fresh in Englewood Cliffs before joining The Fresh Wave.

At the new satellite office, Mr. Brave is concentrating on his strength — imported fruit items — which is the office’s primary purpose, according to Mr. Giordano. So far Mr. Brave is splitting his time between The Fresh Wave’s two locations, generally spending Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays in the satellite office and Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the headquarters. And Mr. Brave’s responsibilities are expected to widen over the coming year.

“His background is 100 percent fruit. He’s never done veg,” said Mr. Giordano. But “we’re slowly teaching him veg. By this time next year, I hope to tell you that he’s well versed in veg and selling plenty of it.”

As to the new office, Mr. Giordano declared, “We’re very proud of that. It’s working out very, very well actually.”

There is another new face at The Fresh Wave. William Gruccio, a grandson of William Consalo, joined the company May 16.

Mr. Gruccio “had always had an interest in the business,” recalled Mr. Giordano. “We approached him one day out of the blue, and he was very interested. He just observed for a year” while he was at college. “He got to sit here for a year and soak it all in. It was a bonus for all of us.”

Mr. Gruccio earned his MBA from Rider University earlier this year, “and now we’re slowly going to work him into doing some sales here,” said Mr. Giordano. “We’re excited that he wants to be in the business.”

Referring to William Consalo as something of a mentor, Mr. Giordano stated, “I looked up to him. I just thought he was such a class act. He taught me a lot, not only about produce” — since Mr. Consalo was ending his produce career around the time that Mr. Giordano was joining The Fresh Wave — but also about “how to be a gentleman in this business and to treat people right.”